When you go on vacation, there are so many different types of accommodations to choose from. Which one is right for you? There are hotels, resorts, houses, cabins, condos, bed and breakfasts, inns – whew, it's exhausting! By the end of this article, you'll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders as you learn the difference between hotels and resorts, professionally managed vacation rentals and vacation rentals by owners.
Let's start with the type most people are probably familiar with, staying at a hotel or resort. Hotels and resorts are one of the best choices for a family that just wants to kick back and relax, not lifting a finger during their entire stay. Feel the luxury as your room is cleaned for you daily and your meals are prepared for you, maybe all without leaving the property. Hotels and resorts generally offer the largest variety of on-site amenities, too. You'll typically find several pools and fitness centers; you might find spas, game rooms, and maybe even bowling alleys all on-site. You probably won't find yourself or you children bored on a hotel or resort stay, but after a long day of activities, you'll need to settle down in your room. Of course, this luxury doesn't come at a low cost. A family of four could easily spend $120 to $150 per day on meals alone during the vacation. Typical hotel rooms can be a little cramped for the whole family to crash and relax. Many resorts, however, offer suites, which contain at least one closed off bedroom. If you're like me, you could use a little quiet time to yourself at the end of each day to unwind. In that case, maybe a vacation rental is a better option for you.
Technology has enabled individual owners to easily rent their property online to travelers in need of a place to stay on vacation. You might find these condos, houses, or apartments on sites like VRBO, Airbnb, and HomeAway. Some hosts will even rent out individual bedrooms in their house while they continue to live their life, sleeping in the bedroom across the hall! Individually owned vacation rentals can be an affordable option for traveling families and can offer accommodations that you wouldn't otherwise get in popular urban areas, like an apartment in a big city.
But it ultimately comes down to the looming question – what are you really getting? How often is this place cleaned? Who are you renting it from? Is it safe? Let's take a scenario that happens all too often when renting from a private owner. You're in Panama City Beach on a hot July day. You're soaking up the sun on the soft sand beach, drifting away to the sound of the waves on the beautiful emerald coast. Hours later, you pack everything up at the beach to head back to the condo. You open the door, and, whoosh, you're blasted by heat. It's hotter in there than it is outside! Oh no, the air conditioner has gone out! Who do you call? Is the owner even in the same state? Don't tell me you're going to have to wait until tomorrow to get it fixed! What if you lost your keys on the beach...how do you get a new set? If you arrive and the unit wasn't cleaned prior to your arrival, who will come to clean it? Scenarios like this are common problems travelers encounter when booking through an individual owner that doesn't have a "boots on the ground" presence like a professionally managed vacation rental company would. Also, many rent by owner properties do not provide linens and towels - which means you must bring these yourself. Imagine driving 9 hours to your resort destination and then having to make all the beds in a four-bedroom condo when you arrive - this isn't exactly a relaxing start to your highly awaited vacation! If having to handle all of this on your own on your vacation gives you a little anxiety, you should definitely consider booking your vacation rental through a management company.
Let's take the same scenario as before. It's still not a pleasant experience, don't get me wrong, but this time, you don't have the extra worries of who can help and when it can be resolved. You rented your condo through a professionally managed rental company. It's a simple call to the company and they will send someone right away to fix it, 24/7 – just like a hotel. If it can't be fixed right away, you've got some added security because you booked through a professional company; they will likely move you to another unit that they manage, and sometimes even offer you an upgrade for the inconvenience. You also don't have to worry about the last time the place was cleaned. Professionally managed companies take care of all the maid and linen service between each and every reservation.
Alright, but what exactly is a vacation rental? How is it different from a hotel or resort? Well, a vacation rental could be a condo or house, just like you live in at home, but with more amenities and a better view! They come in many shapes and sizes, from one-bedroom condos to 24+ bedroom homes. In North Myrtle Beach, for example, we see a lot of big families come through, renting a condo or house with four or five bedrooms, then the families split the cost. It usually ends up being a whole lot less expensive then individual hotel rooms or suites and a resort. Oh, and those bedrooms? Yeah, most of the time, they have their own private bathrooms, so you won't have to share your bathroom with Uncle Jack who just filled himself to the brim at the seafood buffet and well… I'll spare you the details. Speaking of eating, most vacation rentals come equipped with full kitchens, which can save you a lot of money by staying in for a good homecooked meal. When it's time to sit around and relax in the company of your family and friends, just head to the living room or your private oceanfront balcony. A vacation rental is a great way to enjoy a home away from home feeling while on vacation.